Helena physician and photographer Richard Buswell has patrolled Montana’s ghost towns for nearly a half century now, camera in hand. His fifth collection of images reflects the steady refinement of art and skill, a marriage that has landed his images in the permanent collections of 228 museums in the U.S. and around the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress.
Victoria Rowe Berry, director of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, praises the artist’s “eloquent abstract vocabulary.” Indeed, these black and white images are enigmatic. A moose antler, like bony fingers; a rattlesnake’s skin, strangely tactile and geometric; splayed elk teeth, worn and gleaming.
The markers of human life are also compelling: porcelain dolls, faces cracked, eye sockets empty; a pile of doll limbs, akimbo, and an angled doll arm, minus the smallest finger; a stack of frayed receipts; the worn wooden keys of a piano; the graceful arch of a tea spout; rope underpinnings of an ancient tire.
“Like a great athlete, actor or musician, Buswell inspires our awe by his ability to use light, a lens, and silver salts to create images that capture our attention, delight our sight, and stimulate both our hearts and our minds,” writes George Miles, curator of the Collection of Western Americana at Yale University, in the foreword. “We and our descendants can be glad that they are among the things he leaves behind.”
The book contains 56 new photographs taken over the past four years. An exhibit of his work opens in June at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana in Missoula.